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Some critical readings of Gatsby1. James E Miller jnr.The Fictional Technique of F Scott Fitzgerald (1957)[65-67, 71 Icon Critical Guide]A Structuralist and Reader-Response reading: Miller discusses the form and function of a modernist novel. He undertakes a key discussion of Nicks first person narration eye witness accounts and reconstruction of events from explicit or implied sources or from Nicks imagination, also reporting anothersnarrative. Miller discusses the alteration of the chronological narrative the realism of getting to know someone as you night in real life moving from first impressions to more detailed points.There are three methods by which Nick Carraway informs the reader of what is happening or what has happened in Gatsby: most frequently he presents his own eye-witness accounts of other people, sometimes in their own words, sometimes his own, and sometimes he reconstructs an event from various sources newspapers, servants, his own imagination but presents his version as a connected narrative. He is initially placed on the edge of the story, but through Jordan Nick becomes.. involved in Gatsbys pursuit of Daisy, the material symbol of his dreamFitzgeralds use of modified first person enables him to avoid the large false face peering around the corner of a characters head (Fitzgerald letters 1934) and achieve a realism impossible to an omniscient author.. through Nick, Fitzgerald places the reader in direct touch with the action, eliminating himself as the author entirely.. After his brief but dramatically impressive first glimpse of Gatsby, Fitzgerald works backwards and forwards over his past until the complete portrait finally emerges at the end of the book.2. Victor A Donyo Patterns in The Great Gatsby (1969) [82 - 8]Donyo applies New Criticismto thepatterns and unity of the book, praised much by New Critics. He looks for codas and leitmotifs in the book, but does not go as far as some new Critics in suggesting that one does not need to take the authors intentions (expressed or inferred) into account , as some New Critics did, calling this the intentional fallacy. Donyo relates patterns he finds in Gatsby to Fitzgeralds revisions and concludes he fulfilled his intention to produce a consciously artistic achievement.Donyo uses formalist approachesthat were dominant in criticism of the 1960s.Several patterns of the novel are obvious. The first three chapters present the different settings and social groupings of three evenings. Fitzgerald calls attention to this pattern when he has Nick say: Reading over what I have written so far I see I have given the impression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were all that absorbed me. Similarly, the patterning presents two very different characters, George Wilson and Tom Buchannan, as cuckolded husbands: I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before. Clearly Fitzgerald is aware of these patterns and wants the reader to share the awareness.Fitzgerald indicates the relationship between sense by presenting for example the same tableau twice: Daisy and Jordan both in white (in chapter 1) when Nick renews his acquaintance, the second when Gatsby intends to reclaim Daisy. In the later scene Jordan and Daisy say together We cant move. In the first daisy says as her first direct statement in the novel Im p-paralyzed with happiness. This statement however was inserted after the second scene was written which.. besides presenting an apt characterisation of Daisy, likens her feelings to those shortlybefore theargument with Tom. Through this repetition, Fitzgerald emphasises Daisys lack of growth within the novel.Besides adding depth of characterisation, the patterning also shapes the readers attitudes towards events and themes The readers uncritical acceptance (of the highly improbable plot manipulation whereby Daisy runs down her husbands mistress) is influenced by something nick says in the coda of chapter III.. the near accident subliminally prepares the reader to think of Daisy hitting Myrtle as a possible event. After all, Jordan nearly did a similar thing. The readers attitude is more frequently shaped by an ironic juxtaposition of such themes as romantic idealization and realistic disillusionment.Nicks scornful attitude toward romance primarily refers to the love of Gatsby for daisy, but the situation parallels Myrtles first meeting with Tom and reflects a disillusioned view of such an event. Myrtles desperate romanticism and Nicks uncomfortable realism. Is juxtaposed to and qualifies the other. A similar attempt to influence the readers attitudes occurs with analogous scenes in the codas of chapters V and VII. In each case, Nick sees a tableau of Daisy sitting and talking with a man holding her hand. Fitzgerald balances the moment of romantic bliss (when G has just re-won daisy and is experiencing sublime happiness) with a decidedly realistic description of Daisy after the auto accident sitting with Tom : He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. This second scene signals Gatsbys loss of Daisy. I addition, the repetition destroys the uniqueness of Gatsbys moment of happiness and thereby makes the reader question the validity of his romantic idealization.The readers attitude toward romantic idealisation and realistic disillusionment is also shaped by the elaborate patterning .. of a man and woman kissing.. The presentation of the kiss at her cheek of the movie director and his star ( VI) .. relates to Nicks description of Gatsby kissing Daisy in the coda of the same chapter, with its dominant tone of romantic idealisation, culminating in the flower simile: At his lips touch she blossomed for him like a flower. The idealization is touching, but Nicks sarcastic insertions and similar incidents qualify the readers response. A similar incident from a lees romantic point of view occurs in the coda of chapter IV between Nick and Jordan, where Nick reserved his emotional commitment. Even Nick calls attention to the relationship between the kisses by saying Unlike Gatsby.It is clear that Fitzgerald fulfilled his intention t write a consciously artistic achievement, and a knowledge of the ways in which the novel is intricately patterned from minor details up to large structural units partially explains how Fitzgerald created a novel that it something extraordinary and beautiful and simple (Bruccoli and Duggan 1980)3. Leyland J Person Herstory and Daisy Buchanan in American Literature(1978/9)(116, 17, 119, 21)Person attempts to win back focus on Daisy. As a Feminist reading, it takes the view that Daisy is demonised by Nick and disempowered by Gatsby , who takes her story and makes it his and then into history; creating a platonic ideal for her that no human could live up to. Nick does the same and Person suggests he makes her stand for the corruption of the American dream. Daisys tale has its own dream and desires, and Person views her as ultimately Gatsbys female double. Persontakes a psychoanalytic approach much favoured inthe 1970s.Few (male) critics write about Daisy without entering the unofficial competition of maligning her character. Marius Bewley refers to her vicious emptiness.. Alfred Kazin judges her vulgar and inhuman finally Leslie Fielder sees her as a dark destroyer, a purveyor of corruption and death and the first notable anti-virgin of our fiction, the prototype of the blasphemous portraits of Fair Goddess as bitch in which C20th fiction abounds. (1967) Such an easy polarization into Good Boy/Bad Girl however, arises from a kind of critical double standard.. Daisy in fact is more victim than victimizer; she is victim first of Toms cruel power, but then of Gatsbys increasingly depersonalised vision of her. She becomes the unwitting grail in Gatsbys adolescent quest to remain faithful to his seventeen-year-old conception of self. Thus, Daisys reputed failure of Gatsby is inevitable; no woman, no human being, could ever replicate the platonic ideal he has invented.Daisy herself expresses the same desire to escape the temporal world. If Daisy fails to measure up to Gatsbys fantasy, he for his part fails to match up to hers. At the same time that she exists as the ideal object of Gatsbys quest, she becomes his female double. She is both anima and doppelganger and The Great Gatsby is finally the story of the failure of a mutual dream. The novel describes the death of a romantic vision of America and embodies that theme in the accelerated dissociation the mutual alienation of men and women before the materialistic values of modern society. Despite the tendency to view her as a monster of bitchery (Hunt and Suarez 1973), Daisy has her own complex story, her own desires and needs. In choosing Tom over the absent Gatsby she has allowed herself to be shaped forever by the crude force of Toms money. Yet Daisy discovers as early as her honeymoon with Tom that his world is hopelessly corrupt; in fact, Daisys lyric energy (which so attracts Gatsby) must be (literally) frozen before she can marry Tom. .. She has been baptized by ice and with her romantic impulses effectively frozen, she becomes paralysed with conventional happiness as Mrs Tom Buchannan. Her present ideal, transmitted to her daughter, is to be a beautiful little fool because that is the best thing a girl can be (Ch 1)Daisy is victimized by a male tendency to project a self-satisfying, yet ultimately dehumanising, image on woman. If Gatsby wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy; if Nick had nearly recovered a fragment of lost words through the inspiring magic of her voice, then Daisys potential selfhood is finally betrayed by the world of the novel. Hers remains a lost voice and its words and meaning seem uncommunicable forever.4. A.B.Paulson Oral Aggression and Splitting(1978 and later revised in 1986)in American Imago journal.(123, 126,7)In an extreme Freudian/Psychoanalytic reading, Paulson centres on the use of doubles and splits splitting the object (usually of love) into good and bad as a primitive defence against anxiety. Paulson suggests that the mother figure (in literature) can be both good and bad, and argues that Daisy is both good object and mother- object of love and Myrtle is the bad object of aggression, mutilated in death.The second concept of splitting used is of splitting the ego after Freud. Nick is the most obviously divided character acknowledging that division particularly in the relationship with Jordan. He suggests Jordan is the phallic woman (!)Much of the argument involves the use of mother figures: absent mothers figured by the three prominent breasts of the text: the fresh green breast of the new world the pap of lifeholdingthe milk of wonder to which Gatsby, before he kisses Daisy, imagines he could climb alone, and the left breast..swinging loose like a flap of the mutilated Myrtle. The first, Paulson suggests, is ambiguous in evocation of both promise and loss, the second sucked by the infant in a bliss that excludes all else, and the third (he says) the object of oral aggression, torn and disconnected.If we sort Daisy and Myrtle into categories of Oedipal and pre-Oedipal mothers, then several things become clear. First, it explains the odd vacuum placed just at the point where Gatsby finally reaches and possesses the unreachable woman. The worst fault in it, Fitzgerald wrote, I think it is a BIG FAULT: I gave no account (and had no feeling of knowledge of) the emotional relations between Gatsby and Daisy from the time of their reunion to the catastrophe. I would argue that he had no knowledge about this because, as the forbidden possession of a forbidden object, it is simply unimaginable. Seeing the nice girl Daisy as an Oedipal mother also makes clear our response to Gatsbys death.. which has a kind of tragic inevitability about it. He must die because his offence is severe; he has possessed his mother. And he is killed by two of the father figures scattered through the novel; that is by Wilson in collusion with Tom. Tom is interesting as the bad boy who pursues Myrtle as the bad mother, (especially as) he functions emotionally and intellectually as a child. Again, Wilson in the early part of the novel is characterised as a child until he possesses Myrtle by locking her in a room. Throughout the novel, male characters struggle towards manhood by fighting for the possession of women.We can add that unworthy women are seen as castrated in the unconscious. This is one dimension of the abrupt nightmarish moment when Tom, at the end of the raucous party, breaks Myrtles nose (and) the final reason why Myrtles death makes us so uncomfortable. The breast swinging loose is a kind of symbolic castration and stamps her as debased. As the golden girl in contrast, Daisy is the perfect woman; that is, as Oedipal mother, unmutilated, uncastrated.5. Ronald Berman The Great Gatsby and Modern Times (1994)(151 - 5)From modern cultural studies, this is a Marxist /Cultural reading of the language of the marketplace in the book. Berman focuses on the desire for commodities in the book,and how characters draw their models of identity from the larger cultural text around them, also relating this to film and popular culture of the time, andhow images in the book areinformed by modernist art.The Great Gatsby devotes much of its narration to the description of industrial things and forms the story takes place within a geometric grid of streets and avenues, and the text is alive with places to rent and sell and stay. There is also the reiterated presence of movie images in magazines, of movie selves imitated by personality. As for billboards and windows and luminous signs, they overlook much of the novels action and provide certain meanings.Although extremely visual, the novel is full of barriers to sight and insight. It may be that the dimness of perception of people and things corresponds to the ambiguity of human relationships.Fitzgeralds intricate statement of time and place calls our attention to it. One way is realistic, locating the action in a given chronological sequence over the summer of 1922. We see events cultural issues and styles of this brief period and also of the quarter century in which it is set. The second kind of time is connected to the idea of imbalance so recently brought to consciousness by T.S.Eliot in The Wasteland of that year. One date in the novel, 5th July 1922, with its permutations of class and style and coming straight after independence day, links with the progression of names of those who went to Gatsbys parties, suggesting social and personal change, mobility and the blurring and loss of identity (Long, 1979) of American democracy. But time is connected not only to time but to space. The more Nick tries to locate himself in West Egg on Long Island in North America, the more he finds he is somewhere he scarcely knows at all. Confusions of time and place affect the co-ordinates of logic in the book as well as geography. We progress (finally) to the view from Queensboro Bridge where all of time is cancelled, and to a sidewalk in Louisville which becomes Jacobs Ladder (chapter 6).(Much in the book) connects entertainment with consumerism, and consumerism with the acquisition of character (Myrtle gets her identity in part form the Town Tattle scandal magazine). Jordan bakers name implies one kind of technology (according to Bruccoli two automobile makers: the sporty Jordan, and the Baker electric. 1991) and her figure to flattened impossibly elongated figures of Cubist painting The language of the marketplace infiltrates everywhere. Wilson cant tell the difference between God and an advertisement; Nick sees Jordan for the last time, thinking she looked like a good illustration. Feelings and perceptions may even be provided by the marketplace. Myrtle buys her dog and Tom buys her. Nick rents, Gatsby buys, the Buchanans inherit. Commodities are definitions: ... Gatsby knows that his gorgeous car establishes his status.The characters in the book see ideal forms of themselves in film and magazines. The narrative uses language of picture illustration advertisement and prepares us to understand that everything they do is theatrical. There is hardly a character in the novel that does not have an ideal self in mind, constructed or achieved.as the product of market enterprise, and specifically related to magazines and movies. We are accustomed to think of The Great Gatsby as a story of social mobility and change, but it is also a story of disguise. The characters absorb ideas and feelings from what is communicated to them. It might be said that their closest relationships are not with each other and certainly not with family or community or tradition - but with published advertised and perceived images and print. As the narrative begins, Nick tells us how far we are away from family, tradition and clan; on the last page he states our irretrievable distance from historical beginnings. Much of the narrative in between registers the advent of ideas and values from other kinds of sources. The Great Gatsby further general critical introductions:6. Tony Tanner (1990 Introduction to the Penguin Classics edition): There is in Nicks narrative a hunger for something that is Real in a more than .. material accidental way. There is a theological and metaphysical yearning confused and vestigial though it may be mixed up with Nicks desire to believe in some form or figure of gorgeousness to offset the dismalness with which he is all too, and now increasingly, familiar, which is why he deliberately and daringly invokes God and Plato in his celebratory elegy of the sentimental American criminal in the pink rag of a suit. Nick catches glimpses of some of the uglier and mire sordid social sexual and economic realities of the story he has to tell, but he refuses to let them dominate his narrative as they do life if they did, there would be just America. Consequently, writes Richard Godden: whenever the contradictions become too disquieting he turns social aspiration into dream, sexual politics into romance and translates class conflict as tragedy. (Fictions of Capital CUP 1990) The original early positioning indicates that the book was always going to be an elegy, pervaded with a sense of something muffed, something lost a chance missed, a dream doomed. He wants to show America desecrated, mutilated, violated (like Myrtle). Whatever the might-have-beens of the new world.. America has contrived to make itself utterly accidental and accident-prone. Of what might have been a Wonderland (a theme endemic to American literature) we have made a wasteland. Fitzgerald knew Eliots poem of that name pretty much by heart. Gatsby surely embodies more flourishing and fecund, less emotionally etiolated (weak) and self-retractive possibilities. Nick is a spectator in search of a performer.. and for all his regrets, prefers the role of a casual watcher in the darkening streets. When Nick is not enchanted he is likely to be starting to feel disgusted. For all the seeming reasonableness and impartiality of his tone, his Gatsby book is generated by a tendency to move between extremes. It is a very American oscillation.7. Kathleen Parkinson (1987 : Penguin Critical Studies series: The Great Gatsby) Thenovel encompasses a specifically American past and identity, moving all the characters into a point of crisis in which their sense of themselves is threatened. Gatsby most of all embodies the duality of American experience, but it is Nick who confronts the issues this raises. A recent feminist critic has charged The Great Gatsby with exhibiting actual hostility towards women: Another American love story centred on hostility to women and the concomitant strategy of the scapegoat Not dead Gatsby but surviving Daisy is the object of the novels hostility (Judith Fletterley 1977 in A Feminist Approach to Fiction). There is not a single female in the book who exhibits anything but a desire for a good time and for material possessions. No woman character understands of cares about either Nicks moral preoccupations.. or Gatsbys intense devotion to a dream which transcends himself. The language that conveys Daisy Fays wealthy artificial world (dancing to music that creates sadness and suggestivenessa hundred pairs of gold and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust) also implies the sexual excitement which the newly fashionable blues music and their freedom to dance the night away aroused in the young women who had nothing else to think about but affairs of the heart. It suggests their luxurious environment, at the same time implying that youth is transient. The faces are not individualised, they are rose petals blown about the floor. Daisy could not wait, she wanted her life shaped now, and only a man and marriage could do that for a girl in her position. Ella Kaye quite blatantly transformed love for Dan Cody into money, just as the girls at Gatsbys parties are exploiting their sexuality for a good time. More subtle aspects of the relationship between love and money are present in the case of Daisys marriage, Gatsbys love for Daisy and even Nicks affair with Jordan. Nicks very strong awareness of Jordans lack of ethical concerns puts into question the basis of his own relationship with women: he exonerates them because they have no moral nature I was casually sorry, and then I forgot (65). There is always tension in the relationship. Nick sees her as treating love as a sexual battle for advantage and ascendency. Being in love is an uneasy state throughout the novel. Their conversation about careless driving is precisely about personal ethics in any relationship. Jordan exploits it to manoeuvre Nick into a closer relationship, thus asserting her advantage when she says Thats why I like you (65) She sees Nick as a morally careful driver who obeys interior rules that act as brakes on {his} desires, who honour the traditional mores of gentleman and lady. The implication is that Jordan desires both the traditional and the emancipated. As neither Jordan nor Daisy is allowed to reveal her inner feelings, the implication is that these frivolous upper-class women have none. Jordans role in the novel is problematic. Nick simultaneously engages in am emotional relationship with her and a coldly critical. Appraisal of her dishonesty and indifference to others. In some ways Nick is using Jordan even when she is asserting her sexual power over him. It is never an easy relationship, nor is it an appealing one. Daisy is evoked from the start by the qualities of her voice. It does not matter that what she says is trivial; it is the musicality and sexual allure of her voice that seems to hold out promises. As he listens to the hostess at the start of the book, Nicks response acts as a prelude to Gatsbys cherished vision of her. Nick is thus identified with Gatsbys romanticism from the very beginning of the novel. The device of telling Daisys story in the words of Jordan, and later Nick relating what Gatsby told him, puts all the emphasis on Gatsbys all consuming passion and aspiration. Daisy exists as an object of his dream, a beautiful enchanted figure within a romantic dream. She is emotionally passive. The focus on Daisys voice [her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy identified here with Keats nightingale] by Nick is a reflection of Gatsbys longing and the creation of his imagination, so by concentrating on this feature of her charm he is able to ignore her identity as a woman of varying moods. As a dream figure she can remain perfect. The reader is never given a chance to penetrate Daisys mind, only to understand it through Nicks judgement. Daisy is torn between her responses to Gatsbys romantic vision of herself, and Toms materialist evaluation of her, expressed by the string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars (82) which was his wedding gift. Traditionally the romantic imagination concerns itself with constructing a world of possibility rather than with reality and this is what Gatsby has done (but) romantic possibility was not enough for Daisy. Gatsbys romantic imagination invents a world of possibility, but the emotion it generates is often a sense of loss for. the vision cannot be sustained. By pacing Gatsbys recollection of his past with Daisy after the catastrophe of Myrtle Wilsons death and Daisys desertion, Fitzgerald conveys effectively how dead the past is.Some early reviews of The Great Gatsby:8. William Rose Benet: An Admirable Novel in The Saturday Review of Literature (1924) At the top of page three we find the remark: No-Gatsby turned out alright at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men. Scott Fitzgeralds new novel is a remarkable analysis of this foul dust. And his analysis leads him, at the end of the book, to the conclusion that all of us beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. There is depth of philosophy in this. Gatsby is a disillusioned novel and a mature novel. It is a novel with pace, from the first word to the last and also a novel of admirable control. For the first time Fitzgerald surveys the Babylonian captivity of this era unblended by the bright lights. He gives you the bright lights in full measure, the affluence, the waste, but also the nakedness of the scaffolding.The mystery of Gatsby is a mystery saliently characteristic of this age in America. And Gatsby is only another modern instance of the eternal fortunate youth. His actual age does not matter. He is the man with a dream at the mercy of the foul dust that sometimes seems only to exist in order to swarm against the dream. It is a strange dream, Gatsbys but he was a man who had hope. He was a child. He believed in a childish thing.It is because Fitzgerald makes so acid on your tongue the taste of the defeat of Gatsbys childishness that his book, in our opinion, acquires merit. One feels that though irony has entered into Fitzgeralds soul, the sense of mere wonder is still stronger. And of course, there is plenty of entertainment in the story. It arises in part from the almost photographic reproduction of the actions, gestures, speech of the types Fitzgerald has chosen in their moments of stress.. They are actual, rich and poor, cultivated and uncultivated, seen for a moment or two only or followed throughout the story. They are memorable individuals of today not types.9. William Troy: Scott Fitzgerald: the Authority of Failure Accent magazine (1945)Not until The Great Gatsby did Fitzgerald hit upon something like Mr. Eliots objective correlative for the intermingled feeling of personal insufficiency and disillusionment with the world out of which he had unsuccessfully tried to write a novel.Here is a remarkable instance of the manner in which adoption of a special form or technique can profoundly modify and define a writers whole attitude towards his world. In Gatsby is achieved a dissociation by which Fitzgerald was able to isolate one part of himself, the spectatorial or aesthetic, and also the more intelligent and responsible, I the person of the ordinary but quite sensible narrator, from another part of himself the dream-ridden romantic adolescent in the person of Jay Gatsby. It is this which makes the latter one of the truly mythological creations in our recent literature for what is mythology but this same process of projected wish-fulfillment carried out on a larger scale and by the whole consciousness of a race? Indeed, before we are quite through with him, Gatsby becomes much more than a mere exorcising of whatever false elements of the American dream Fitzgerald felt within himself; he becomes a symbol of America itself, dedicated to the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty.Not mythology however, but a technical device which had been brought to high development by James and Conrad before him, made this dissociation possible for Fitzgerald. The device of the intelligent but sympathetic observer situated at the centre of the tale .. makes for some of the most priceless values in fiction economy, suspense, intensity. And these values Gatsby possesses to a rare degree. The same device imposes on the novelist the necessity of tracing through in the observer or narrator himself, some sort of growth in general moral perception, which will constitute in effect his story. Here, insofar as the book is Gatsbys story, it is a story of failure the prolongation of the adolescent incapacity to distinguish between dream and reality, between the terms demanded of life and the terms offered Like Billy Budd or The Red badge of Courage to mention only a couple of American stores of similar length with which it may be compared it is a record of the strenuous passage from deluded youth to maturity.3


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